Mixtape Saturday: Lil Bibby, Rich Homie Quan, Tinashe, Trae Tha Truth

November 30, 2013

Welcome back to Mixtape Saturday, a weekly roundup of great rap tapes around the web hosted by FADER contributor Meaghan Garvey. This week, she talks about Lil Bibby's breakout, Rich Homie Quan's straight-faced emotionality, Tinashe's soft sex appeal and Trae Tha Truth's high-profile friends.

Lil Bibby, Free Crack, November 29, 2013

There's really no way around it: Free Crack is Lil Bibby's star-making moment. His momentum has been building all year, the regional success of “For The Low” leading up to a game-changing Drake co-sign and rumored collaboration. Still, at Bibby's first live show in Chicago this May, where he opened for Gunplay along with Lil Herb, he looked a bit shy. Onstage, his youth revealed itself, and he seemed unready to be thrust into the rap industry head-first. But all that hesitation is gone now. Bibby's deep voice has always made him seem older than his years, but he sounds like a man here: self-assured and more lyrically intricate than ever over lush beats, crafted mostly by DJ L and Don Robb. Even the difference between the tape's older cuts, like the King L-featuring "How We Move," on which Bibby's flow feels slightly more generic, and its more recent tracks, is considerable. King L is a relevant point of comparison, actually: a rapper thrust under the "drill" umbrella for categorization purposes, but in fact more focused on technical skill than sheer menace. 2014 is Bibby's to take.

Highlights: The chipmunk-soul "Water," Bibby's most approachable track yet. "If You Knew," a gift and a fuck you to boom-bappers who doubt young Chicago's "real hip-hop" chops.

WTF: A "Hips Don't Lie" horn intro?!

Rich Homie Quan, I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In, November 26, 2013

Following up one of my favorite tapes of last year, Still Goin In, Rich Homie Quan's I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In aims to transport Quan from being known as the "Type Of Way" guy to a "new Atlanta" mainstay. While not quite as thorough as Still Goin In, it's a varied, sincere and tender project. There are the requisite turn up anthems, but its highlights are its most contemplative tracks, with undercurrents of tragedy (perfectly showcased through Quan's gravelly moan) running throughout even the brightest moments. This tape also seems purposefully less akin to Future than earlier stuff—Quan has expressed frustration at constant comparisons between himself and Future, and references those in the intro track, "They Don't Know." Where Future would yelp and bellow, Quan goes for an understated approach.

Highlights: Though it's technically been on the internet since summer, I'd argue "Whole Lotta" (previously titled "Whole Lot") is Quan's best song yet, the perfect balance of triumph and sorrow.

WTF: The Toto "Africa" sample in "Reloaded."

Tinashe, Black Water, November 26, 2013

Tinashe's gossamer voice and easy confidence completely belies her age. Upon first hearing her, on last year's stellar In Case We Die, I'd had no idea she wasn't even 20 yet. On Black Water, which precedes debut album for RCA, things get sparser, darker and submersed even deeper into eerily calm eroticism. She's almost like the ghostly manifestation of Drake's obsessive posthumous love affair with Aaliyah: restrained, candle-lit production that's reminiscent of Noah "40" Shebib's less-is-more aesthetic, paired with whispered, sensual vocals. There's no shortage of wispy-voiced singers capitalizing on late night laptop-glow aesthetics in the past couple years, but Tinashe stands a head above the rest. For one, the slightness of her delivery doesn't mask any vocal weakness, and unlike so many others, it doesn't feel numb or detached. In spite of her angelic glow, there's an undeniably erotic charge to Black Water.

Highlights: The breathtaking, Ryan Hemsworth-produced "1 for Me," which is like the ballad of the baddest Disney princess ever. "Ain't Ready," the tape's most pared-down and closest-to-Aaliyah song.

Trae The Truth, I Am King, November 25, 2013

Trae Tha Truth has been in the game for a decade and a half, coming up with Houston's Screwed Up Click. He's getting national attention in 2013 via his association with T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records. I Am King is his third tape this year, and Grand Hustle's pulled out all the stop for it. The tape spills over with high profile features—Diddy, Jeezy, T.I., Meek Mill, Snoop Dogg, Lupe, Jadakiss, Lil Reese, Kevin Gates, Yo Gotti, Big K.R.I.T., B.o.B., Tory Lanez—and boasts an impressive production roster that includes Boi-1da, Jahlil Beats, League Of Starz, Dun Deal and Honorable C Note. Trae holds his own amid the pomp and circumstance. As always, his flow is spell-bindingly acrobatic, though not showily so, and with his pained rasp, he could be considered one of the forefathers of this year's "sad boys" trend. At the same time, at moments the abundance of flashy features can feel distracting. Trae shines on his own, without any over-accessorizing.

Highlights: The "Bette Davis Eyes"-sampling (or approximating) and Kevin Gates-featuring "Dark Angel," a melodramatic addition to the Best Sad Rap 2013 list on which Gates admits that he's so depressed he can't get hard anymore. The super-soft "Halo," which sounds like The Weeknd meandering into smooth jazz and features Tory Lanez.

WTF: Was there some illuminati mandate this year that ruled Wiz Khalifa has to be included on literally every mixtape?

From The Collection:

Mixtape saturday
Mixtape Saturday: Lil Bibby, Rich Homie Quan, Tinashe, Trae Tha Truth